My Books Have Been Pirated

Pirate skull and bootyBeing an Indie Author is an odd thing.

So far, most of the work on my books has been done in-house. My wife and I designed the covers, I did all the formatting for the eBooks and print versions, and the editing/beta reading was kept to a few close, and trusted, individuals. When the books released, they flew off into the ether and the only way I knew anyone was reading was by sales and comments left on websites.

It’s a very solitary production.

I never see lines of fans, nor do I have thousands of ratings and/or comments. When I walk into a bookstore, none of the staff are excited. Heck, I hardly have over a thousand followers on Twitter.

So to have Google alerts send me an email directing me to a website where someone requested pirated copies of my books, and then see said link, is odd. Someone wants to obtain my books illegally? Why?

My initial reactions is to freak out-a mix of anger, sadness, and disbelief-and mourn all the lost sales.

Then I take a deep breath, and think about the times I’ve seen Neil Gaiman talk about piracy. He basically equates it to book lending.

As we avid readers know, book lending, either from friends, or from libraries, has been an integral part of author discovery for ages. I think, Perhaps this link will lead more fans to my other work.

Then a pissy inner voice screams “But the friggin book is only $2.99!”

Which is true. My books cost less than a specialty espresso drink at Starbucks. I remind the voice you can buy songs for $1.00, and those get pirated all the time. Price doesn’t seem to be a factor.

That same voice grumbles, “It’s easy for Neil Gaiman not to care, he gets a fat advance and always ends up on the NY Times Bestseller list.”

Yes, that’s true too. The only money I make is from copies sold.

I ask the voice, “What would you have us do?”

“Email the website. Threaten lawyers,” it responds.

“But we don’t have a team of corporate lawyers.”

“They don’t know that,” it sneers.

I stroke its back, taking time to massage the shoulders.

“Here,” I say, “have a cookie.”

“Mmmmm…Cookie…”

From where I stand, I have three options

  1. I could contact the website and request they remove the link.
  2. I could ignore the link and act like it never happened (not likely, as I’m writing a blog post about it).
  3. Or, I could accept that it’s out there and trust the reading community to make their own decisions.

My novels have never had DRM (Digital Rights Management). I did this because I’d heard of readers having a hard time reading a legally purchased novel on multiple devices. But I also did it so friends could share the books and maybe find me some new fans in the process. Based on that intent, which has existed since my first book was published, option three best represents who I am.

In fact, here’s the link to the pirated version of Harbinger.

I’ve downloaded the file myself. It’s complete, but it’s not the most recent format. Still, the story is all the same. According to the website, it’s been downloaded ninety-nine times.

Just to avoid lawsuits, I’d like to point out I can’t guarantee how long the link lasts, or the safety of it. It’s strictly a Use at Your Own Risk kind of situation.

All I would ask (well, hope, really) is if you decide to download Harbinger, and enjoy it, that you be kind and purchase Suture. As I said earlier, the only money I make is from copies sold, no one has paid me an advance.

So there you go.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go medicate that pissy voice of mine. He’s going to blow a gasket when he finds out I posted that link while he was eating his cookie.

All the best,

JR

Does the Creator’s Opinion Matter?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a religious debate. It’s in regards to an idea I was introduced to via a video on YouTube (link will be at end of post).

Background

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, or my Twitter/Facebook/YouTube feeds, you’re probably aware that I am a fan of anime (Japanese Animation). One of my favorite series of all time is Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Evangelion (Eva, or NGE, for short) was an anime in the mecha genre released by Gainax in 1997. Depending on who you talk to, it either revolutionized anime or was a narrative mess. Regardless, it has had a long and lasting impact on the fan base and particularly on the mecha genre.

The video I recently watched was in regard to the creator of Eva, Hideaki Anno, being quoted as saying he didn’t understand all the fuss. That in his opinion Eva was a simple show with a lot of symbols and such thrown in just to make it look cool. The video then asks a simple question; Even if that is what Anno thinks, does it matter?

Creators, not Interpreters

I’ve published two novels and have several more works either underway or in the planning stages. Each of them means something to me. I’ve tried to weave meanings into them that may never be apparent to anyone other than myself. But does that give me the right to tell every reader what their own interpretation and meaning is?

Assuming we release art (by which I mean all forms of expression) for more than just profit, we must be seeking an emotional response from the people who view and consume that art. Art is conversation, not lecture. If I wish to convey a specific message and it fails, I have no one to blame but myself. On the other hand, if a reader finds an entirely different message that means something to them, who am I to say they are wrong?

Our personal interpretation of art and evaluation of its merits is informed by our own experience and emotional core. Since no two people have lived an identical life, there is bound to be a difference of opinion. If anything, that prospect thrills me. I find it disheartening that any creator would devalue their own work, and their fans’ opinions, in such a way. Besides, if a work contains symbols and archetypes that are just thrown in without any thought to how they belong, the audience is generally intelligent enough to realize it.

Once my words are on paper, my job is finished. I won’t be hovering over your shoulder as you read, pointing out my intended subtext (good thing too, that would be creepy). Some will love the words, others hate them. To some, the words will speak to them, while others will be left feeling cold. That is the nature of art, and I have no place to tell someone whether they are right or wrong.

This also speaks to the cardinal rule of authors, which is to not make comments on the reviews left by readers. Certainly, if the review is nothing but personal attack, issue should be raised, but when someone presents a well thought out and balanced criticism, it shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, it should be heeded. There are many unfortunate instances where authors didn’t keep their mouths shut. Their insistence that the audience was wrong did nothing but damage their careers and alienate the very people they supposedly wanted to reach.

In Harbinger, I left a few dangling ideas and story bits. I did that because I wanted the ideas planted, but didn’t want to fully address them until Suture. These dangling ideas were probably the most cited issue people had with Harbinger. And so, in Suture, I sought to leave no dangling ideas. By the end, characters are in precarious positions, and there’s still one or two mysteries left, but they are ongoing ones, not one off sentences that are never addressed again. You the readers, who voiced your opinions, made me change mine. In the same way, Bleeding Worlds Book Three might be influenced by the response to Suture. Like I said, it’s a conversation.

So if you’re an artist, make the best art you can. But realize the moment it leaves your hands, your exclusive right to say what it means is at an end. And if you are a consumer of art, let your heart tell you what it means without fear of being “wrong.”

Talk further soon,

JR

Suture Cover Reveal – and a new Harbinger cover to match

Hello everyone. So I’m managing to keep my promise and returning with further news regarding Suture, The Bleeding Worlds Book Two.

The specific news today is to reveal the cover for Suture.

While I enjoy the cover Harbinger has sported for the past eight months, writing Suture made me want a change. I hesitated to do it, but I wanted new covers that would feature the series title more. So my cover designer and I went back to the drawing board and came up with the following….

harbinger-new-small-res

And now, for the cover of Suture…

suture-cover-web-res

The male models are images by GraphicPAStock http://graphicpastock.deviantart.com

All other photography and editing by Carolyn Macpherson.

Hope you all like the new covers. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Another Year Ends

December 26, 2012. The day after Christmas.
According to a variety of people who’ve dedicated books and movies to the subject, I shouldn’t be here. None of us should be. Despite them, the sun came up, and, for better or worse, the human race began another day.
Truth be told, taking emergency calls at my day job, listening to the misery visited upon people by stupidity, poor judgement, or acts of the universe beyond their control, it’s easy to be cynical and think it wouldn’t be so bad for the world to continue without us. But then, I’m also a father, and I’m glad the world is still here so my sons can grow and discover.
Apocalypse avoided (though I subscribe to the belief that there never was one, that the Mayans meant something entirely different). Perhaps it’s more important than ever to draw a slow breath and reflect on our year.
I could get political. I could talk about gun control, economic restraint, and putting aside petty rivalries so nations don’t come undone. I could mourn and cheer, cry and laugh, and no amount of any would be enough to sum up 2012. It’s the last time my generation will see the year, month, and day be the same number, and it’s the last scheduled apocalypse people have been fearing.
It’s the first year I made a resolution and put forth the effort to see it done. It’s the first year I looked in a mirror and thought that perhaps, after years of doubt and desire, I was a writer.
Writing isn’t just a hobby any longer, it’s also a responsibility. When I released my book, and people purchased it, I realized I’d made an unspoken pact with those wonderful people. I promised that I would continue to write and finish the story I asked them to become invested in. It gives writing added pressure, but also greater reward. My words aren’t just mine anymore, they belong to others, and that feels both wonderful and frightening.
I have similar feelings about this passing year. It was filled with fear, anger, and uncertainty. The year felt heavy and overburdened. Maybe it was the messages of doom or because the nations of the world were embroiled in changes of government and economies. I’m not sure. But the world didn’t end. Perhaps the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, made an unspoken pact with us. No sudden apocalypse, so we better do the best we can. We have time, we should stop wasting it. Our lives are each great stories, we should work hard to make them meaningful to satisfy our readers.
I hope 2013 is a turning point. I hope that if the Mayans had some sort of precognition, it was that they foresaw a shift in attitudes and a renewal of our world.
Dare to dream this year, and dare to chase those dreams. Let your words, thoughts, and deeds, belong to others.
On a separate, yet related, note, I want to say a heartfelt Thank You. It took almost three years to write, edit, and publish, Harbinger. In the past two months, almost a thousand people have picked up the book. Those who have taken the time to leave feedback have had many kind words to say. As 2012 draws to a close, one of my dreams is coming true. And it’s because of you wonderful people.
Thank you. I wish you peace, love, success, and dreams, for 2013.

Some Reflection a Month After Release

As we sit upon the precipice between November and December, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the past month and what it has meant for my little novel, Harbinger.

I released the book on October 30th (though that date varied by vendor depending on how fast their systems processed the files). I did this with modest fanfare. I announced it across my social networks, posted the news here on my website, and then proceeded to post samples of the book on the various sites that allow you to do such things (Scribd, Wattpad & Figment to be precise). I approached one person to see if she would do a review, but that’s yet to happen. After the first few days, I stayed quiet about the book. I didn’t continue to flood my Twitter feeds, nor did I post on Facebook every day that people should read my book and PLEASE give me a nice review on Amazon. I’m not great at that sort of thing. If anything, I would’ve just come off sounding whiny. So I continued to look at other places where I could post some news, samples, etc.

So how has the book done? Well, I’d like to think it’s exceeded my expectations for its first month of life.

  • In week one, I sold 12 copies through Amazon.
  • In week two, I sold 4 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Kobo.
  • In week three, I sold 18 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Smashwords.
  • In week four, I sold 116 copies through Amazon, 1 copy through Kobo, and 1 copy through Apple.
  • This week could see my sales top 140+ on Amazon.

So within five weeks of release, Harbinger will have sold about 300 copies.

I have no idea how this compares to the experience of other Indie Authors. I have no idea what magic I cast in week four that sent sales into the triple digits. I suspect it’s because I made enough sales in weeks 1-3 that the book started showing on Amazon’s Customers who purchased this also purchased…. type lists. On Amazon, more sales=more exposure=more sales. Also, it was about week three that I posted the first four chapters on Scribd. Over 100 people read those chapters, and I have to wonder if some of them then went and bought the book. In short, this is all dumb luck, and I’m at a loss to provide hard evidence of what happened.

It could be just the time of year as well.

So now I enter into the next phase of trying to generate some interest in the book. Print copies have finally arrived in my hands and I’ve set up a book giveaway on Goodreads (check out the contest here).

I hope that this will create some more interest in the book and keep the forward momentum going.

But this perceived success has given me reason for pause. I had planned to plow ahead and work on a separate novel, Gloom, and then work on the sequel to Harbinger, Suture. But I feel an obligation to these wonderful people who’ve given my book a chance. I’ve decided to focus my energies on completing Suture and temporarily shelving my other projects. It hurts a bit, seeing as how Gloom is over 50,000 words, but I know if I keep dividing my energies, I’ll fall behind on Suture-or deliver a book that pales in comparison to the first. A step backward would mean the end of my writing momentum. So, since no one was really all that eager for Gloom and Seeds, I’m putting them on the back burner until Suture has been finished and is seeing the light at the end of the edit tunnel. I’ve also decided to not even try to write anything new that could be a series. One series at a time. Any other books will have to be content with being oneoffs.

So there it is. My progress and my reflections. I know, maybe a little dull, but I felt like all this had to be said… if only for myself 😉

Thank you for all your support and time. If you’ve read Harbinger, send me an email and let me know what you thought.

All the best,

JR

My Interview for the Writer’s Knowledge Base Newsletter

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an opportunity to do an interview with Elizabeth Craig for the Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter. The issue came out last week, so I thought I’d post the interview here for all you non-suscribers.

If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend you check out the Writer’s Knowledge Base for a ton of great information to help you achieve your goals. While you’re there, you can also sign up for their newsletter.

 

You had an October 30th release for your first book, “Harbinger–the Bleeding Worlds.” You’ve got its sequel planned for release this spring, and two other books in the pipeline. How do you balance your time between your day job, family to two boys, and writing? Do you keep the same schedule each day, or is your schedule flexible?

My work schedule consists of two 12hr day shifts, then two 12hr nights and then 4 days off. It makes a consistent writing schedule almost impossible. Most of my writing happens in the late night hours after my family has gone to bed. During my night shifts at work I take time between calls to jot down ideas, plot points, etc. and then do some writing on my breaks. In general I try to squeeze 1-2 hours of actual writing into each day.

Any tips for worldbuilding?

After you have some basic concept of plot, ask, “What kind of world would this happen in?” With the Bleeding Worlds, I started with this vision of a boy plunging his arm into the ether and summoning forth power. So I wondered, is this a fantasy world? Is he a magician? I realised very quickly that this was our world in the modern day. Next, I asked, “Is he the first?” No, that didn’t work with my other ideas. So I asked, “If this had been happening for a long time, how would people with these powers be treated?” This led to the idea that the gods of myth were just super-powered humans. I kept on like this, asking more questions. Every answer expanded the world and its possibilities. Then, I dialed it way back, told a story with a small group of characters, and kept the bigger world stuff for future books. In my experience as a writer and a reader, I think it’s best when worlds are hinted at as opposed to blatantly laid out in every detail. It leaves some of the magic up to the reader. It also means less rules you might one day have to break as the writer 😉

What’s your approach to plotting? How did you work out story arc for the first two books of the Bleeding Worlds series?

I always start with an idea or an image. Harbinger was an image of a boy with energy swirling around his arm. Another series I’m working on, Hidden Empires, started with the idea of a princess trying to bring sunshine back to her kingdom. I take these ideas or images and just ask a lot of questions. Why does the boy have this power? Why can’t the kingdom see the sun anymore? Each answer gets written down. As the number of answers grow, I start to see threads that connect them, or a logical sequence that needs to occur.

From there, I use the writing program Scrivener to lay out a few chapters. Each chapter gets a part of the sequence. Then I start writing. I find as the initial chapters develop, they inform the following chapters. It’s a mix of plotting ahead and flying by the seat of your pants. I try to keep a vague endpoint in my mind, but I let the story tell me how I’m getting there.

In terms of plotting a series, it wasn’t until halfway through Harbinger that the larger story took shape in my mind. It happened in response to a simple question I had about one of the characters. That question was, “Why did he leave home?” The answer led to me using the Norse legend of Ragnorok to help structure the series (for spoilers sake, I won’t tell you how the question led to that).

I also find a lot of series related plotting happens in edits. When Harbinger went through edits, I knew a lot more about book two and the series in general, so I left myself room to grow. I also made sure I hadn’t painted myself into any problematic corners.

You’ve got an interesting and fast-paced job as an emergency dispatcher–how does that inform your fiction…or does it?

Every day my job gives me a “I should put that in a book” moment, but I’ve yet to find stories where they fit. Let’s just say that truth can truly be stranger than fiction.

Where it did help in getting Harbinger written was that it taught me you can’t wait to pursue your dreams. Life is fragile and you never know when it will end. I learned to stop talking about writing, and actually get to it. Because tomorrow, I might not get that chance.

Tips for new writers for finishing a book and staying motivated through the process?

First off, find a community. As an indie author, you are constantly bombarded with the message of being on social media for exposure. But the main reason to use it is to meet outstanding people who help and motivate you. Twitter was a major factor in my finishing this book. On nights where I didn’t feel like writing, there were people who cheered me on, or who were just so inspiring that I had to keep writing to chase after them.

Also, accept that the process is long. While my newer books are taking shape much faster, it’s taken me two-and-a-half years to get Harbinger to the point of publication. The first one can be hard-it’s filled with doubt and fear. But don’t stop. The best writing advice I’ve heard, outside of Stephen King’s “Read a lot,” is from Neil Gaiman. His simple answer on how to write was “finish what you start.” This really resonated with me when I finished Harbinger. When I was writing it, I would be filled with doubt. Could I really write a book? Was I even capable of building a plot intricate enough for that? Now, I don’t have those doubts anymore, because the answer is “Yes, I can.” It’s made my writing since far more enjoyable. So stick with it.

Where can we find you online?

I’m a bit of a social media butterfly, but Twitter is always the place I come back to and where I post most regularly.
https://twitter.com/JustusRStone

Naturally my website is always a good place to go, http://justusrstone.com. It also has links to all my social media accounts.

Where can we find out more about your new book?

You can find out about Harbinger, and all other future Bleeding Worlds releases at the official website http://thebleedingworlds.com/

Another place to check out is the Goodreads page for Harbinger http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15745096-harbinger. You can see what other readers think, and add it to your lists!

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for asking me to participate. I hope to converse with all of you online and I hope you’ll give Harbinger a read.

 

Exciting Times! Harbinger Release and My First Interview

It’s an exciting and surreal time. Today marks the official release date of Harbinger. There’s been so much leading up to this that my mind boggles with all the things I’ve done, and haven’t done, to prepare for this moment. I wish I’d done more to set up promotions ahead of time like contests, blog tours, and getting Harbinger out to book bloggers. Well, I suppose that work will start now. Advance hype is nice, but I’ll take any hype I can get 😉

However, an amazing opportunity came my way by total surprise (I love it when the universe does that). Elizabeth Craig, author and writing advice guru (she has a really helpful twitter feed at https://twitter.com/elizabethscraig), sent me an email asking me to do an interview for her Writer’s Knowledge Database newsletter. I didn’t hesitate a moment before saying YES! I’ll be posting the full interview here after it’s been delivered to their subscribers. It was a really great boost for me just ahead of Harbinger’s release date. My very first author interview 🙂 It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I also created a dedicated website for The Bleeding Worlds series. While I’ll always feature all my books here on this website, I figured it was best to have a central location for all Bleeding Worlds related information.

So here I am, a published author. To those of you who’ve stayed subscribed to the site during my slow periods, and those of you who’ve helped me through the writing and editing of this book, a huge Thank You to you all. It doesn’t quite seem real to go to Amazon.com and see my book there. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Take care everyone. Much more ahead.